Web of Spider-Man #19

Background

In the last issue, Pete was pushed onto a railway track by an unknown assailant but his Spidey-sense didn't warn him.

Story 'Humbug'

After thinking he may have lost his spidey-sense at the end of issue 18, Spidey is swinging across town looking for a fight. He spots some suspicious looking men in a shipyard and drops in, inviting them to take their best shot. Meanwhile, a new villain - Humbug - is looking on, wanting to steal the shipment the men are dealing with.

One of the workers swings an iron bar at Spidey from behind but his sense acts in time and he avoids it. As Spidey deals with all the crooks Humbug watches on, intimidated, before running off and not wanting any part of Spider-Man. His last word is 'Bah', which I thought was pretty funny. After proving to himself that his spider-sense is working OK, we move to a scene in Germany (then West Germany, of course). There is a hostage situation in a bank but a mysterious stranger materialises inside. As the security services storm the building, the captors are all dead but the captives alive. There's a note that says: "While I live, terror dies" signed by "Solo".

Back in the offices of Now magazine and JJJ tells Joy and Pete he is sending them to England to hear a speech (then British PM) Maggie Thatcher is going to give about terrorism in Northern Ireland. Joy also seems determined to do some more digging on Roxxon while she's over there.

Over in a Soho flat, we see Humbug in his room full of insects. Another tenant is banging on his door to complain about the noise when Humbug spots an article in the paper about a government money transfer. He wants money to carry on his insect 'research'.

Pete has spent the expense money that JJJ gave him on a huge bunch of flowers for Aunt May and is taking them round to her when he sees one of her tenants, Martha, moving out. She is still shaken by the hostage-taking in Spectacular 113. We find out that May has asked Nathan to leave. She was shocked at his actions in helping the police shoot the intruder (again in Spec 113).

Over at the Federal building, Humbug strikes. After a mix-up where he accidentally turns on his tape player, he then unleashes some kind of vibration weapon at the guards. Pete, who is inside the building sorting out his passport, rushes outside, having waited in a very long line, and after a quick change into Spidey, beats the Humbug quite easily. He then goes back to wait again in the line.

In the epilogue, at the Bugle, Joy asks Pete if he had much trouble sorting out his passport (!) In our final panels we see a cut scene across the pond where some (presumably IRA) terrorists are planning an attack on London. Now there's a coincidence...

General Comments

My favourite thing about this is the way it blends real-life issues of the time into the story. Terrorism on the British mainland is something that generations of people grew up with, long before the date 9/11 meant anything other than my mum's birthday. For everyone up-to-date with world news it gives a point where Spidey can mean something in a wider everyday context and for those who weren't, it gives them a reason to find out for themselves.

I like the fact that Joy and Pete will be spending more time together overseas, though I really wish she'd air her suspicions about Pete being Spidey. There are also still the unanswered questions about Spidey's spidey- sense - why didn't it work at that moment in the last issue and who pushed him on to the rail line?

As with quite a few of the 'Web Of...' villains, Humbug is once again a weak opponent, though. He's merely a plot device to extend out a prequel to what is going to happen in London. You'd think that Solo would have some big story coming up the way he's featured here but instead he disappears for three years real-time. Makes it all a bit pointless really. Shame cos it looked like he's got some good powers.

Overall Rating

All in all, this is a great set-up for the next few issues. In itself, the plot is slightly thin but there's enough build-up that it becomes reasonably strong anyway. Web Of... is really building with a string of strong plot lines and has finally found itself a niche amongst the other two titles.